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photo : ISHINKI

"Touching the Time"
in the Mercati di Traiano in Rome

"Touching the Time". Is it possible to "touch" the time?

The title of the exhibition of sculptures by Kan Yasuda is extremely poetic. Immaterial. Evocative.

Rationally unacceptable: the verb to touch indicates an action directed at something tangible, while time is quintessentially immaterial. So this association between a material verb and an untouchable dimension indicates a relationship of communication, of transcending of a boundry.

The initial question remains, and we wonder about the deep reason that has prompted master Kan Yasuda to choose this title. And what the artist's answers might be; and those of his direct interlocutors, that is, the visitors who will be attracted - or even repelled - by this image.

First of all, the artist's origin. Master Kan Yasuda comes from Japan, and he has set his works in the green and blue gardens of the Land of the Rising Sun. The context, therefore, is the spaces of ageless, timeless nature : the land of mother earth, placed on which are silvery metal "stones", the immovable mirrors of water on which white, smooth pebbles are reflected, the grassy carpets stretching to the horizon and cut vertically by white roads that lead to monumental square structures, but open onto the endless greenery. Earth-sky, timeless elements. The spaces call the forms. And the works are pure, rounded, clear forms, smoothed by time, rendered uncontaminated by the time that flows over them; or square, hard, angular, like the monolithic masses of the earth, but with openings, narros cracks or elongated windows, freeing the material in space, releasing its essence from the closed block. The white colour of the marble and the dark colour of the metal alternate; they are made bright and blinding by the rays of the Sun.

Touching the surface of the works allows you to perceive the substance of the material, the work of man; sitting or lying on some of them makes you feel the physical relationship between our bodies and lines that the material has taken on, shaped by the artist.

To find the whiteness of the statuary marble, Kan Yasuda moved to Pietrasanta, the area where the material from before the existence of man is extracted and worked by man to become an object.

And the landscape and material of the western Land of the Sun have produced other forms, other corporeal connections between form and space, and, above all, between the space that becomes location and man.

Sculptures are always conceived to be in the open air: but from the unique dimension of nature in Japan the artist goes on to conceive the works for home contexts: in Italy, the space is anthropologized, man is the centre of the universe and has built the cities.

"Open-air sculptures", therefore, become, "sculptures in the cities". And the most emblematic cities in Italy are: Florence, the centre par excellence of the architecture and culture of the Renaissance, the age of Man. And Rome, the urbe, the city of emperors and popes. The city against which all measure themselves, but only when they are in full maturity, and feel ready to not be crushed by it.

And, in Rome, the works of Kan Yasuda are welcomed in the Mercati di Traiano. In the complex of buildings that rise from ground level towards the sky, stretching out onto the slopes of the Colle Quirinale and hiding with clever architectural solution the cutting into the rock by the Romans to obtain further space for the monumental Foro di Traiano. A changed space, therefore, forcefully adapted and modelled by the ancients, to suit the public space par excellence of men, the forum.

Finally, the contexted of the exhibition: the Mercati di Traiano in Rome. Kan Yasuda does not want critics to talk about the exhibition. He wants the location to do it: the Mercati di Traiano. The complex of buildings that, structured over six levels, according to a lively three-dimensional plan in hemispherical and square forms, opens towards the city and communicates with it. Decomposed, transformed, re-functionalised, re-aggregated, now restored according to the most modern methodologies but with the techniques and materials of Roman workmen, it has always been part of the urban context. It has traversed time, it has been touched by time; time has touched it. And it has become the spatial and conceptual point of reference for the art of this time.

Peter Erskine has played with light on his walls, breaking it up into rainbows on the red of the tiles; Anthony Caro has inserted his works into the environments following the criterion of continuity between spaces and forms; Richard Serra has isolated full, square volumes in the monumental space of Grande Aula; Eliseo Mattiacci has reproduced the vaults and concavities of Roman architecture with spheres suspended and spread over the ground; Igor Mitoraj has exhibited colossal ancient statues reduced to fragments amid the architectures fragmented by time; Christoph Bergmann has projected figures of the gods and men of the past into the future.

And now, Kan Yasuda, Who has placed his sculptures, with names that recall time contained in arks and drops, along the outdoor path that winds from the level of the Foro di Traiano to the level of the Giardino dell Milizie, taking care to ensure that they communicate with the monument, with each other, with the city.

The positioning of every work has required time and care. The sculpture was not just "laid out". It had to enter into symbiosis with the space; it had to establish a relationship with the horizons; it had to pursue, construct and weave together visual axes. Over time the master had presented a number of projects for exhibitions: and during the course of the work he has had second thoughts, he has isolated works, he has sought chiastic and asymmetrical arrangements, linear and scattered on the grounds, varied, mutable, but steady and absolute in their interrelation with the location.

Significantly, one of the privileged spaces is the road, man's creation destined to go beyond time. The granite monolith Man and earth emerges from the paving stones of the ancient Via Biberatica like a primordial creature, from the time when the figure as such did not exist yet, only the form, oval and convex like the forms of lava. The stele of a motion out of concavity, Birth, placed at the southern corner of the paved road that divides the Grande Emiciclo from the Foro di Traiano, is oriented so as to hold the generating light of the Sun and the cold light of the moon, as in a mother's womb. The two white doors called Tensei/Tenmoku frame the rectilinear axis of the modern Via Alessandrina, suggesting to the passer-by the idea of stopping, passing and taking a photograph of their companion framed within that open space, thus fixed in memory.

Another important space is the terrace, which looks onto the monument and the city, and welcomes works that in turn welcome visitors, inviting them to walk through their illusory openings into a space that is always external, open on the various sides towards the city: Key of the Dream, Gate of Return, Listen, are intentionally visible from every angle and form every level, and refract the light on their smooth, bright surfaces.

Finally, the interior. Always understood as an opening towards the exterior. In the square block of the work Nothing Exhists, the form of the taberna in which it is located is reproduced, the form of the embedding in the walls is taken up, while the colour of the black marble from Belgium of which it is made absorbs the colours of darkness, evoked by the staircase climbing from the Renaissance cellar, and is transmitted in the absence of light of the cavities, to be finally captured by the niches in the work, repelled and dispersed to the exterior, in light, in time.

So can we respond to the initial question: "Is it possible to touch time?" At the Mercati di Traiano, with the works of Kan Yasuda, yes, we can.

Lucrezia Ungaro
Director of Mercati di Traiano, Museo dei Fori Imperiali


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